As Mark Twain said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” Throughout the story of our salvation, we see history rhyming time and again.
In the beginning, when God created the first man He saw that it would be good for him to have a partner, a mate, a bride. So the Lord put the man into a deep sleep, removed his rib (perhaps because it was the bone closest to his heart,) and fashioned from it the first woman. When Adam awoke and saw, he happily exclaimed, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” In our first reading today, the people of Israel come to David and declare, “Here we are, your bone and your flesh. [Be our king!]” Here we see God’s people, Israel the bride, coming in joy to greet her husband, the king.
In days past, Saul had been Israel’s king, the one anointed by God’s prophet Samuel. But as time passed, King Saul became proud and loved himself to the contempt of God. After many transgressions, Samuel announced to Saul God’s judgment, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.” Saul rightly guessed that his replacement would be the young man, David, and he set about to have him killed. When David wisely fled for his life, Saul gathered a posse to hunt him down.
One night, David and his right-hand man, Abishai, snuck into the camp of Saul and his men. They came right up to where Saul laid, but the men “remained asleep, because the Lord had put them into a deep slumber.” Abishai begged in hushed tones, “Let me nail him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I will not need a second thrust!” David replied, “the Lord forbid that I touch his anointed!” David would not thrusting a spear through the side of God’s anointed. Instead, David took the spear and water jug which lay at Saul’s head and went to a remote hilltop. From there, David cried out: “Why does my lord pursue his servant? What have I done? What evil do I plan? [I could have killed you!] Here is the king’s spear! Let an attendant come over to get it!” After that Saul acknowledged that he had betrayed David’s innocent blood and went away. Later, Saul committed suicide in a battle lost to the Philistines and God’s people came to David to ask him to be their king. David had refused to take the kingship by force, and God graciously bestowed the kingdom upon him.
About 1,000 years later, another Christ or Messiah came, the true Anointed One of God. Like David, Jesus also refused to slay his opponents and take His kingdom by force. This confused and disturbed many who believed in Him. Some speculate that Judas betrayed Jesus into the hands of the Jewish leaders so that Jesus, His back pinned to the wall, would be forced to show his power. When Judas realized that he had betrayed innocent blood he did not seek out Jesus’ forgiveness, but despaired and killed himself.
As Jesus hung on His cross, making it the new tree of life, He was the New Adam, naked without shame. Jesus was surrounded there by all sorts of people. Some of them where disciples who had believed in Him, but they stood there fearful of their allegiance becoming known. Scribes, Pharisees, and religious rulers stood there who should have acknowledged Jesus as their Christ, but they disregarded His words. The Roman soldiers there were doing their duty, and perhaps didn’t feel much about Jesus one way or the other. However, one person there on Calvary was unafraid to speak out in truth and faith. He was a condemned man crucified beside Jesus. This man said, “We have been condemned justly… but this man has done nothing criminal. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” We call this man “the good thief,” and indeed he was, for in the last hours of his life he managed to steal Heaven.
What would we have done if we had been there? What sort of witness would we have given? It is impossible for us to go back to that time—history doesn’t repeat itself, yet our present does rhyme with the past. A senior at Columbus recently told me that he always tries to get other students to come to Mr. Kitzhaber’s youth events because, in his words, “they’re really fun!” But most students decline, replying “that’s a Jesus thing.” Are we ashamed or afraid to be identified as Christ’s followers? How many people today are like the scribes and Pharisees of the past by ignoring Christ teachings as they are taught through his bride, the Church? And how many Catholics fulfill their duty, by saying their prayers and going to Mass, but do it without much joy? What would we make of a bride who appeared indifferent and bored with her groom on their wedding day?
History doesn’t repeat itself, but salvation history does rhyme. In our day, will we resemble the timid disciples, Jesus’ religious opponents, the indifferent guards, or the faithful and courageous, good thief? Without fear, let acknowledge Jesus as our God. With obedience, let us heed the words our King speaks to us through His Church. With joy, let us approach Christ as our Bridegroom, like a bride on her wedding day.